Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of safety and integrity, claims there was more, not less, censorship under Elon Musk when he came on board in a targeted effort to rid the social media platform of hate speech.
Roth resigned last week despite claiming that Musk backed his efforts at limiting free speech, according to the Daily Mail. He says that the new Twitter CEO gave his team the task of ensuring the platform flagged hate speech after his $44 billion takeover of the company.
“Mr. Musk empowered my team to move more aggressively to remove hate speech across the platform – censoring more content, not less,” Roth said in an op-ed for the New York Times on Saturday in an allegation that has not been proven at this point. “Before my departure, I shared data about Twitter’s enforcement of hateful conduct, showing that by some measures, Twitter was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before.”
Then he seemed to contradict his assertion by stating that Musk’s goal to create an absolute, free speech platform could ultimately be stopped by Apple and Google. The Internet giants could kick Twitter off their app stores over safety concerns. Why he would give that warning if Musk was having Twitter censor more hate speech seems odd to say the least.
Last week, I made the decision to leave my role leading Trust & Safety at Twitter.
Today, I'm sharing a few thoughts about what comes next for the site. https://t.co/QPAQR6zpqU
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 18, 2022
Update on our efforts to combat hateful conduct: We've not only mitigated the recent surge in harmful behavior, but have reduced impressions on this content in Search by ~95% relative to even prior baseline levels. We're continuing our work to make Twitter safer every day. https://t.co/g4X6ue0f8W pic.twitter.com/lK5fMRWCGb
— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 9, 2022
Roth was not the only one to leave by any means. Reportedly, approximately 1,200 employees left Friday after Musk sent out an ultimatum that staffers commit to “hardcore” work or head for the exit.
It’s been a ride pic.twitter.com/0VDf5hn2UA
— Matt Miller (@brainiaq2000) November 17, 2022
After those employees jumped ship en masse, Musk held a meeting with his coders in the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. The “Chief Twit” shared a group photo of himself and his programming team giving a thumbs up at the meeting.
Just leaving Twitter HQ code review pic.twitter.com/pYcXRTJm14
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2022
Roth is asserting that Musk’s goal to restore free speech on Twitter is being tempered by advertisers. The former safety czar contends that roughly 90 percent of the company’s revenue came from ads.
“Twitter has little choice but to operate in a way that won’t imperil the revenue streams that keep the lights on,” he commented.
Cleaning up Twitter has been difficult for Musk. He implemented an $8-a-month charge for blue-check verification that scammers immediately took advantage of causing companies such as Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin to lose billions after controversial tweets from impersonation accounts surfaced.
However, Twitter’s biggest threat at the moment may be Apple and Google.
According to the NYT, Twitter now has roughly 2,500 employees remaining, down from 7,500 before Elon Musk’s takeover. pic.twitter.com/FDNleTPW6L
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 19, 2022
“Failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services,” Roth posited. “This gives Apple and Google enormous power to shape the decisions Twitter makes.”
He recounted at The New York Times that his team was frequently contacted by Apple and Google reps who complained about racial slurs and sexual content on the platform.
Roth went on to criticize Musk for being the sole person calling the shots, claiming it was no different from Apple or Google.
He said that although Musk “criticizes the capriciousness of platform policies, he perpetuates the same lack of legitimacy through his impulsive changes and tweet-length pronouncements about Twitter’s rules. In appointing himself ‘chief twit,’ Mr. Musk has made clear that at the end of the day, he’ll be the one calling the shots.”
“It was for this reason that I chose to leave the company: A Twitter whose policies are defined by edict has little need for a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development,” Roth wrote in his op-ed sounding more petulant than noble.
“Online sanitation.” Did you get that from the CCP? Because it sounds like you dumped “free speech wing of the free speech party” to become a Big Brother sycophant.
— Greg Piper (@gregpiper) November 19, 2022
Roth was one of those involved in censoring the reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. His team was also the one that banned former President Trump for his comments following the January 6 riot.
Musk himself is giving mixed signals on free speech.
“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” Musk tweeted Friday. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”
He went on to add, “Note, this applies just to the individual tweet, not the whole account.”
Note, this applies just to the individual tweet, not the whole account
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2022
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